Financial District

Better Roads Staff | February 18, 2012

The Chamber’s Agenda

An action plan for growth in 2012

As we begin 2012, American business is “improving,” says Tom Donohue president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

”But it is doing so weakly, slowly, and insufficiently to put our nation back to work,” he says. To lower unemployment, the U.S. economy has to grow much faster than it is today, he says. “Unfortunately, we think the economy will actually slow down in the early months of the year. We expect growth to average about 2.5 percent in the first half and then work its way back to about 3 percent by the end of the year.”

Ominously, a new chamber survey of small business members found more than 80 percent are “very concerned” about the prospect of new regulations, mandates and higher taxes, and these concerns have put the brakes on new hiring, he says.

“2012 must not be a wasted year simply because it is an election year. There’s no justifiable reason why it should be.”

 – Tom Donohue

The chamber is putting forward its American Jobs and Growth Agenda, “to put people back to work without raising taxes or adding to the deficit.” Highlights include:

Rebuilding the Infrastructure

SAFETEA-LU expires again on March. If Congress doesn’t act, says Donohue, the Highway Trust Fund would be cut a minimum of 35 percent by this fall, putting thousands out of work. “And let me make this clear — every piece of infrastructure legislation should include reforms to speed up projects and encourage public-private partnerships and the use of private capital. In fact, by knocking down the barriers, we can unlock up to $250 billion in private capital for infrastructure. Leverage this with public investments, and we could create 1.9 million jobs over 10 years.”

Producing American Energy

“Our nation is on the cusp of an energy boom that is already creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, revitalizing entire communities and reinvigorating American manufacturing,” says Donohue. “Energy is a game changer for the United States,” he says. “With the right policies, the oil and natural gas industry could create more than 1 million jobs by 2018.”

Expanding Trade, Investment and Tourism

Ninety-five percent of the people we want to sell something to, live outside the United States. The chamber wants to see the completion of a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, and has proposed a new Transatlantic Economic and Trade Pact with the European Union. And, says Donohue, it’s time to get moving on additional free trade deals. “To do this and the TPP, Congress must renew Trade Promotion Authority. Every president should have it. The executive branch must be able to negotiate agreements that won’t be picked apart by Congress but, instead, be subject to an up or down vote.”

Advancing Regulatory and Legal Reform

“To grow our economy and create jobs, we need significant regulatory and legal reform,” says Donohue. “The regulatory avalanche confronting our job creators is unprecedented. The Labor Department has 100 rulemakings in the pipeline. Dodd-Frank requires 447 rules, 63 reports and 59 studies. The health care law established 159 new agencies, panels, commissions and regulatory bodies. EPA has some 200 regulations in the works. And the business community must contend with a National Labor Relations Board that is clearly tilted toward the unions. This adds up to a big drag on our economy.”

Donohue says the chamber will aggressively take on regulations that are costing jobs. “We will go to Congress. We will go to the courts. And we’ll go to the court of public opinion to explain how a regulatory system run amok is needlessly driving American jobs out of the country or out of existence. Let me be clear: The chamber supports necessary, sensible and forward-looking regulations.” Donohue says the chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform will continue to fight the expansion of excessive litigation, “that is sucking the vitality out of American businesses.” And, he says, the chamber wants to stop “the alarming rise” of third-party litigation financing where outside investors fund lawsuits in exchange for a share of the award or settlement.

Encouraging Innovation

“Innovation depends on a rational, efficient and globally-competitive tax system. If we want to keep industries here and attract new investors to our shores, we cannot continue to maintain one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. We need to lower that rate as part of comprehensive tax reform that broadens the tax base, and reduces the costs and burdens of compliance.”

Promoting Fiscal Responsibility and Entitlement Reform

“We must rein in government spending, and bring deficits and debt under control,” says Donohue. “And we can’t do that without serious entitlement reform.”

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